Cleaning Up Broken Fluorescent Globes
If you’ve ever found yourself standing in front of a broken compact fluorescent or fluorescent tube, worried about the mercury being released from it and how to best clean it up, then you're in the right place.
First of all, don't panic. Follow this step-by-step guide to help you have a lightbulb moment when dealing with broken fluorescent globes.
As soon as possible after the break, open all the doors and windows to let the room air out and get the following items ready - some paper or cardboard, disposable gloves, sticky tape or a damp cloth or slice of bread, a disposable brush and a glass jar with a lid.
- Air out the room
Ventilate the room for 15 minutes before cleaning up the broken globe, by opening windows and doors to let fresh air in. After the globe breaks, mercury vapours will be released, so this step is incredibly important for your health. If you have an air conditioner or a heater on, turn them off so that mercury vapours are not being recirculated in the room. Airing the room out properly before cleaning up ensures you don't breathe in any nasties.
- Scoop up the broken bits
Use a piece of stiff paper or cardboard (step away from the vacuum cleaner or broom for this step – these can spread the contents of the lamp!) – to scoop up broken material, preferably into a glass jar with a sealable lid.
- Glove yourself!
It’s not such a good idea to use bare hands, due to sharp bits of glass and the possibility of getting mercury on your skin. Wear disposable gloves to stay safe as you don't want to injure yourself in the process of cleaning up!
- Sweep it up
Sweep up the pieces of broken glass with a disposable brush as it's too dangerous to reuse a brush that may have mercury on it.
- Get the nitty gritty
There will usually be tiny bits of glass or powder on the ground once a globe has broken. The easiest way to clean these miniscule pieces are to use sticky tape, a damp cloth, or piece of bread to wipe up any of the glass fragments or powders that remain.
- Uh-oh, it’s happened on carpet…
If you’re cleaning up a fluorescent globe on carpet or fabric, carefully remove as much glass or powder using a scoop (stiff paper or cardboard) and sticky tape. If there’s no other option but to vacuum, ensure that you discard the vacuum bag or give the cannister a thorough wipe after you've finished.
- Clean up, seal up
Dispose of all your cleaning materials in your general rubbish bin, not the recycling bin.
- Quick, to the bin!
If you don’t have access to the items in this list, the most important thing to do is move everything (preferably in a sealed glass jar) to an outside bin as soon as possible.
These tips have been adapted from a guide from ZeroWaste SA
Recycling light globes and compact fluoros
For light globes and fluorescent bulbs that are still intact, the best method of disposale depends on the type of globe.
Fluorescent tubes, compact fluoros (CFLs), HIDs, and metal halides contain mercury so need to be recycled either through council, commercial or community programs. In South Australia they are actually banned from landfill! If you live in SA, NSW, VIC or TAS, there are specific programs for safe disposal and recycling.
Incandescent globes and halogens can be recycled through some of these programs or can simply be wrapped in paper and disposed of in the garbage bin. They are made from low value and non-toxic materials which make their recycling very difficult.
Visit http://recyclingnearyou.com.au/light-globes/ for more information for your local area.
For an easy way to recycle your spent tubes and globes that contain mercury, look into Ezy-Return Recycling Products. The Planet Ark office has a box for staff to fill up with their globes from home, ensuring the process is fuss-free. It's an easy way to collect and manage the end life of these every day products.